This gritty and suspenseful Scandinavian thriller takes place in Copenhagen. As the book begins, the body of a young mother is found, brutally murdered, her hand amputated. What makes the crime even weirder, the killer has left his calling card – a “ chestnut man“, a little doll made out of chestnuts and matchsticks. On the doll there’s a single fingerprint, one that belongs to a government minister’s daughter Kristine who had been kidnapped, and most likely murdered, a year earlier.
And it’s not just one murder either; it looks like there’s a serial killer on the loose, and he seems to be targeting young mothers. And the chestnut man is left on crime scenes every time.
What makes the case more complicated is the fact that Kristine’s body was never found – so when the chestnut dolls with her fingerprints start appearing, hopes arise that she might still be alive.
Investigating these gruesome cases, we find detective Naia Thulin, who just wants to leave the Major Crimes department and move up the career ladder, and Mark Hess, a disheveled Europol agent on temporary leave from the Hague to serve “penance for some blunder or other,“ take on the investigation. Neither of them is happy to have such an assignment, nor are they too enthusiastic to work together. But someone has to figure out the truth, and this disgruntled duo eventually seems perfect for that task.
The story has twists and turns, and will definitely keep you hooked. Are the murders political or personal? Are we dealing with a psychopath or someone who has a message to deliver? And what has Kristine to do with it all?
Pretty typically for Scandinavian crime thrillers or nordic noir, the book takes clever use of some serious topics and dark sides of society, as well as personal trauma and its place in peoples’ lives. And just as typically it’s gory, violent and unnerving. It’s definitely very true to the genre, one might even say, too true, and one could dismiss „The Chestnut Man“ as „typical“. Nonetheless, I’d say it has enough originality to keep the story relevant and interesting, but it also feels like sort of a comfort zone for those who enjoy that sort of books. If you like Nesbø, Kepler, Läckberg etc, you should definitely give Søren Sveistrup a try – you won’t be disappointed.
Penguin Books, 2019
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